How are Ukraine’s leaders responding to the threat from Russia?

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KYIV, Ukraine – Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border is obvious. Satellite images show ever-expanding patches of snow-covered tanks along the border, and a series of Russian TikTok posts document the steady westward crawl of trains carrying launchers missiles, armor and troops.

Yet despite the buildup – and even as the US warns that an attack may be imminentand NATO forces on alert The Ukrainian leadership is downplaying the threat from Russia.

That stance has left analysts guessing as to the leader’s motives, with some saying it is to keep the Ukrainian market stable, prevent panic and avoid provoking Moscow, while the Others argue that this is the reason why the country is so grudgingly accepted. conflict with Russia is part of Ukraine’s daily existence.

On Tuesday, Russia announced a series of military exercises, from the Pacific Ocean to its western flank around Ukraine, a demonstration of the vast range of its forces. And, wary of the threat that Russia could stop selling fuel to Europe deep into winter, the Biden administration is planning for gas and crude oil suppliers from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. . to increase supplies to Europe in the coming weeks.

But as the Kremlin and West Square fade away, Ukrainian officials are projecting an atmosphere of calm. Just this week, Ukraine’s Defense Minister confirmed that there was no change in Russian forces compared to the ones reinforced in the spring; the head of the national security council accused some Western countries and news agencies of exaggerating the danger for geopolitical purposes; and a Foreign Office spokesman took strong action against the United States and Britain for pulling the families of diplomats from their embassy in Kyiv, saying they acted too soon.

This week’s statements come after a country address last week by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked, “What’s new? Isn’t this the reality for eight years?” On Tuesday night, Mr. Zelensky weighed in on the ambassador’s withdrawal. consistent, stressing in a Facebook post that this “doesn’t mean that escalation is inevitable.”

How to interpret the threat posed by Russian troops and equipment concentrated on the Ukrainian border is a topic of intense debate. Ukraine’s military intelligence agency now says there are at least 127,000 troops on the border, significantly more than the number deployed by Russia during spring construction.

That number does not include troops and equipment currently arriving in neighboring Belarus, a Russian ally, ahead of exercises next month. The United States says those exercises could be used as an excuse to position forces within striking distance of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Even so, in an interview on Monday with Ukrainian television station ICTV, Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, seemed to wonder what all the fuss was about.

“Today, right at this moment, not a single strike group of the Russian armed forces has been established, which proves that tomorrow they will not invade,” Reznikov said. “That’s why I ask you not to spread panic.”

Analysts said there were various reasons for the loss of communication in messages between Ukrainian officials and their American counterparts. Mr. Zelensky had to subtly deliver a message that would keep Western aid flowing, not anger Russia, and reassure the Ukrainian people.

And after eight years of war with Russia, according to experts, the Ukrainians are simply calculating the threat differently from their Western allies. In 2014, Russian commando units occupied the Crimean Peninsula and Russian-backed separatists attempted to raid two eastern Ukraine provinces. Soldiers dug into trenches on both sides of the so-called lines of communication that were regularly breached and flared by mortar and small arms fire. More than 13,000 people were killed in the conflict.

“We understand Russia’s plans and intentions; Oleksii Danilov, head of Ukraine’s national security and defense council, said in an interview with the BBC published on Monday, for us crying out of fear is unnecessary.

Mr. Danilov and others in the Ukrainian government argue that sowing panic and turmoil in Ukrainian society is as much a part of Russia’s strategy as any subsequent military action. So showing fear, even if there is a basis for that, is just giving their enemy a victory before firing a single shot.

“Russia’s number one task is to disrupt the internal situation of our country,” Danilov said. “And today, unfortunately, they are doing this successfully. Our mission is to do our job in a calm and balanced environment.”

The US has its own reasons for the way they call the Kremlin late. Washington must send a strong message to both Moscow and its allies in Europe, like GermanyMaria Zolkina, a political analyst with the Foundation for the Initiative for Democracy, a Kyiv-based think tank, said she might be more hesitant to take a tough stance against Russia.

But there is a risk that Washington’s message, including putting 8,500 troops on “high alert” to be able to deploy to NATO’s eastern border, could anger the Kremlin further, or at least be used to justify a more aggressive posture. On Tuesday, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said Moscow was monitoring NATO troop movements “with great interest”.

Since taking office three years ago, Mr. Zelensky has been gentle in his dealings with Moscow. That seemed to yield some dividends earlier in his term, Zolkina said, but in the face of this new crisis, such an approach could prove weak.

“Now when there is a real scenario in which Russia could invade Ukraine or launch some sort of mixed attack on Ukraine, this kind of handling is a losing strategy for Ukraine,” she said. “The West is doing negotiations that have nothing to do with us.”

Not everyone in the country agrees with the current government’s approach. Over the weekend, leaders of Ukraine’s diverse and often bitter political opposition pressed Zelensky to shelve calls for calm and prepare the country for war. A gathering of members of Congress from different parties, as well as former presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers, signed a joint communique calling on Mr Zelensky to mobilize Ukraine’s forces to confront the “threat threat.” Deadly Russians are stalking Ukraine.”

“He believed that if he scared the Ukrainian people, his approval rate would go down,” said Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister when war broke out in 2014, about Zelensky. “If Russia starts to invade, we have to forget about politics and approval ratings in this country because I am not sure we will have a chance to hold the next parliamentary or presidential elections.”

Ukrainians are braced, even if signs of full mobilization are not quite visible. Across the country, thousands of people have signed up to learn combat skills in classes offered by the Ukrainian government and private paramilitary groups. The goal was to create a civil defense force that could launch an uprising if the main Ukrainian army force was destroyed in a Russian attack.

In the city of Chernihiv – about a two-hour drive north of Kyiv and right in the path of Russia’s advance into the capital – some residents expressed hope that the government would do more to prepare. for a possible attack.

“The president and his administration see absolutely no threat,” said Lyudmila Sliusarenko, a 73-year-old retired teacher. “So anything that can be done to stop Putin will have to come from the West.

“But,” she added, “if there was an attack, the entire population would stand as one.” How are Ukraine’s leaders responding to the threat from Russia?

Fry Electronics Team

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